There’s always someone in your family tree that intrigues you. Mine has been my three times great uncle, Edward Walker.
Edward was born on 7th May 1832, the fourth son and fifth child of eleven children born to William Walker of Broomhills Farm in Applegarth Parish, Dumfriesshire and his wife Euphemia McNaught. Apart from his birth being recorded in the Old Parish Register for Applegarth Parish and his appearance aged 9 years in the 1841 Johnstone Census with his family, nothing else could be found for him! Edward had disappeared into ‘thin air’!
No-one in the family had heard of Edward. I wanted, even needed to know where had he gone? What had happened to him?
It took many years searching before I eventually found Edward in the 1851 Census in St. David’s Parish of Glasgow, aged 19 and living as Lodger at 402 Parliamentary Road in the household of George Cunningham. Edward was employed as a Writers Clerk (Solicitor’s Clerk). I thought, he’s moved to Glasgow that’s where he’s made his life. How wrong was I, by the 1861 Census he’d disappeared again. There was no trace of a death or a marriage for Edward in Scotland – he may have moved to England or emigrated.
Birth entry for Edward Walker in 1832
Step forward several more years when I decided to check the US and Canadian Censuses which were by then indexed and available on ancestry.com. In the 1870 Census for Chicago, Cook County, Illinois I found an Edward Walker who was 38 years old, born in Scotland and employed as a Book Keeper. This Edward was married to Helen who was aged 36 and born in Canada – they had a three year old daughter called Euphemia born in Illinois. The age was correct, born in Scotland with a daughter called Euphemia, possibly named after his mother! I may have found my man.
1870 Census entry for Edward Walker and his family in Chicago, Illinois
I found Edward easily in the 1880 Census, again in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois – the family had grown to include a son William E. and a daughter Annie. Could his son William be named after Edward’s father? I was beginning to feel that ‘the net was closing in’ on Edward.
1880 Census entry for Edward Walker and his family in Chicago, Illinois
Unfortunately, no 1890 Census exists for many US states, including Illinois. My next stop was the 1900 Census, there was no trace of Edward – where had he disappeared to now? I thought maybe he’d been indexed incorrectly, therefore I looked for Helen Walker instead. I immediately found Helen but found her recorded as a widow! NO! The Edward that I had found and beginning to get to know had died sometime between 1880 and 1900.
1900 Census entry for Helen Walker and her family in Chicago, Illinois
Edward wasn’t going to defeat me by dying, I was going to solve this puzzle. The census recorded that Helen was born in March 1844 in Canada, the daughter of Canadian parents who had arrived in the US in 1866. Daughter Euphemia was now married to Allan R Gibson and had a son Edward Walker Gibson. Son William E and daughter Annie were also in the household.
I had not managed to find any marriage for Edward Walker and his wife Helen in Illinois. Helen was Canadian, could they have married in Canada then moved to the US following their marriage?
On 21st September 1866 in Lennox & Addington County, Ontario – Edward Walker aged 32 years, living in Chicago, born Dumfries, Scotland and son of William & Euphemia McNaught Walker married Helen Pringle aged 25 years, living in Nepanee, born in Napanee and daughter of Daniel & Sarah Bell Pringle. I had found my man, I’d found my Edward.
Marriage Register entry for Edward Walker & Helen Pringle in 1866
I sat back and basked in the glory and delight of solving the puzzle of what happened to Edward. Wait a minute, there may be relatives still living in the Chicago area to be found!
Using the information from the 1900 Census then using the 1910 to 1940 Censuses, I was able to map out an extensive family tree.
Google is a wonderful search tool! While experimenting with several of Edward’s family’s names – one in particular threw-up an interesting return, his son ‘William Edward Walker’. I found a reference to William and his wife Gertrude Simonds; she was the daughter of Ossian Cole Simonds, a famous US landscape designer. William died in 1948 and Gertrude in 1967, their papers and photograph albums were being offered for free to proven relatives by Gertrude’s family. I emailed and received an immediate reply. I verified my relationship and within two weeks a large parcel arrived.
The parcel was an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of documents from family certificates to burial documents, Public Notary Statement, Pension Documents, photographs and letters from my own family here in Scotland up until World War One – my grandfather was even mentioned in one of the letters. A Public Notary Statement dated from 1932 and signed by William E Walker stated that Edward Walker had died in Chicago on 7th December 1887 aged 55 years.
The paperwork included a record that William Edward Walker had been buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago in 1948. I checked on-line and Graceland Cemetery had been indexed – in Section P, Sub Lot 424, Grave 2, I found Edward had been buried there on 11th December 1887. Buried in Grave 5 is his wife Helen who died in 1932, a widow for 45 years. Their son William is buried in Grave 6. A daughter Helen Josephine who died in 1878 is in Grave 1. A granddaughter Edith Gibson who died in 1890 is buried in Grave 3 and her father Allan R Gibson who died in 1917 is buried in Grave 4.
I recently visited the United States for the first time while exhibiting at RootsTech in Salt Lake City. It was during the conference, I thought that I needed to pick up Edward’s family thread again when I got home. Looking over the family paperwork I decided to ‘Google’ again! Fate once again played an ace card when I searched ‘Edward Walker Gibson’ (my Edward’s grandson) – to my amazement there was a photograph for sale dated 27th December 1890 of Edward Walker Gibson, son of Allan Gibson & Euphemia Walker. I immediately ‘fired-off’ an email requesting to purchase the photograph.
I could not have been more delighted with the reply; Edward’s granddaughter had also been in touch looking to purchase the photo of her grandfather. Although I was first bidder, I agreed that the photograph should be re-united with Edward’s immediate family. I now have a scanned photograph of baby Edward Walker Gibson but more importantly I am now in contact with my new found fourth cousin Pam (Edward’s granddaughter) who lives in Chicago. Pam is the great, great granddaughter of my Edward Walker.
It’s been fantastic sharing family photographs and genealogies with Pam, along with picking-up the pieces of over 160 years of family news.
It’s taken me over twenty-five years to solve the mystery of what happened to my elusive great, great, great uncle. I knew I would find you in the end. You have been frustrating at times but it’s fun finding you and now your family. Welcome back into the family Uncle Edward – we’ve missed you.
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